Canal Link's aim was to investigate how the region's network of navigable waterways can be further developed, based on the cultural and environmental heritage of the waterways themselves.
Three broad themes were investigated:
• Development of tourism links across the North Sea and between inland waterways in the region;
• Development and expansion of the recreational waterway network in the region;
• Promotion and development of economic activity and entrepreneurship, based on the cultural heritage and tourism on inland waterways.
As a key result the Canal Link project carried out a study into opportunities for developing yachting links between canals across the North Sea, particularly between Scotland and Scandinavia.
Following this approach initial follow-up promotional activities were undertaken, including provision of better information and the development of travel packages. Further improvements were made to canal entrance harbours to provide a better welcome for visiting yachtsmen.
Another main achievement was the classification of a recreational waterway network of the North Sea Region according to the proposed United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) classification system. Therefore an initial assessment of gaps and bottlenecks in the network was made, followed by actions to contribute to the extension of the waterway network in the region.
Additionally a specific investigation into the issue of waste water from recreational boats was carried out (which may have implications in terms of the Water Framework Directive).
Canal Link raised awareness at both national and EU levels to see the importance of the inland waterway network of Europe for tourism and recreation, and as a catalyst for the economic, social and environmental regeneration of communities. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) classification system forms a basis for defining this network. The Canal Link pilot work undertaken in relation to this will be used to feed back comments and conclusions to the UNECE Secretariat regarding possible recommendations to national states. In the long-term, this might form the basis for a future EU initiative in this area.